55. Telegram From the Embassy in the Federal Republic of Germany to the Department of State1

20064. USBER for Ambassador Stoessel. Subject: RFE/RL: Visit of BIB Chairman Gronouski.

Summary: Foreign Office officials confirmed to visiting BIB Chairman Gronouski their support for approval of Holzkirchen modernization and RFE/RL amalgamation applications. The Foreign Office would present this position in discussions with the Chancellery. While a veto by Chancellor Schmidt could not be excluded, these officials were [Page 184] cautiously optimistic about prospects for approval.2 The Chancellery would soon be instructing the Foreign Office to begin consultations with the Embassy on these and other issues involving the Radios. FRG officials expressed some concern over cosmetics of prospective move of RFE/RL presidency from Washington to Munich and Gronouski agreed to look at matter from that perspective. Wide-ranging discussions also dealt with accreditation to Olympic Games, jamming, program content and possible change in nomenclature of Radios. End summary.

1. Board for International Broadcasting (BIB) Chairman Gronouski and BIB Executive Director Roberts visited Bonn November 28 and 29 to discuss RFE/RL affairs with FRG officials. Gronouski briefed Chancellery (Political Director Ruhfus) and Foreign Office (State Minister Von Dohnanyi; Deputy Assistant Secretary Meyer-Landrut; and Deputy Director of Office charged with Radio Affairs Bauch) officials on his perception of Radio’s functions and matters of current interest. Principal comments of Gronouski and German officials are summarized below:

2. Holzkirchen modernization: Gronouski outlined work of Eisenhower Commission, noting recommendation to upgrade outmoded transmitter equipment at Holzkirchen and other stations. This recommendation predated present administration and was a technical imperative if Radios were to transmit effectively. President Carter had agreed with this recommendation and result had been his March 22 request to upgrade transmitters.

Foreign Office officials (Meyer-Landrut and Bauch) confirmed that Ministry supported request to modernize Holzkirchen. The Foreign Office would discuss with the Chancellery the political questions involved and would urge approval. While the Chancellor had reservations about an increasing presence of the Radios in Germany, they were cautiously optimistic that approval would be forthcoming. They cautioned, however, that approval could take some time and they [Page 185] counseled patience. At one point, Meyer-Landrut said, “we will get it, just be patient.”

Ruhfus said the Foreign Office would be instructed to consult with the Embassy on Holzkirchen and other outstanding issues involving the Radios. The Chancellor had a strong personal interest in the Radios and reference was made to his discussions in 1974 with Secretary Kissinger and in 1977 with President Carter. Ruhfus realized that a prompt response was required and he hoped a solution could be found “more in line with our situation here and our sovereignty.” He did not indicate what the Chancellery decision might be though he generally maintained a positive approach toward the Radios, noting that their value as a source of info in Eastern Europe had again been brought home to him during his visit to Poland with the Chancellor.

Begin comment: Meyer-Landrut later told us the suggestion of Foreign Office-Embassy consultations had been his idea and Ruhfus had readily agreed. As noted above, Meyer-Landrut supports approval of the Holzkirchen application. End comment.

State Minister Von Dohnanyi was in general more reserved on Holzkirchen. While it might be desirable from a technical standpoint, politically it represented an increase in radio presence which ran counter to the Chancellor’s desires. The matter must therefore be handled delicately. Though there were basically no differences in our foreign policy, including our approach to detente, there were shadings of emphasis which affected broadcast policy toward the East. The Radios were now operating in a new era of German sovereignty and this, too, had to be taken into account. This made the FRG very cautious and it would be necessary to review the matter carefully.

Begin comment: Von Dohnanyi’s unhelpful approach is not indicative of Foreign Office policy. As a Parliamentary State Minister, Von Dohnanyi has no line responsibility within the Ministry and is not in the decision-making chain on this issue. Nonetheless, he is an important figure in the SPD and his opinion may be more reflective of Party sentiment. If his views are widespread within the Party—and we have no evidence that they are—it will have an impact on the Holzkirchen decision. End comment.

3. RFE/RL amalgamation and Vorbehalt (reservation clause): Bauch believed the Postal Ministry would issue a new license for the merged corporation within a few weeks. There were no problems here. He hoped working-level action on the reservation clause (Vorbehalt) could be concluded this week or next. (The final draft would basically resemble the 1955 RFE and RL letters to German Foreign Office). There would then be a meeting with the Postal Ministry. If the Chancellery did not express an interest in clearing the wording—and Bauch did not expect that they would—the text would be approved and communicated to the Embassy.

[Page 186]

4. Movement of Presidency to Munich: Gronouski explained that the prospective shift of the Presidency from Washington to Munich by upgrading the position of Executive Vice President would permit tighter policy and administrative control over radio output. This would help insure its conformity with established policy guidelines. We realized, however, that political sensitivities in the FRG might be better accommodated by a de facto shift in which the Munich position would assume broader functions while retaining the same title. The reaction of FRG officials varied. Ruhfus agreed on the need for tighter control of radio broadcasting. He believed the shift could be an effective means of accomplishing this if it were a de facto arrangement that did not give the impression of an increase in radio presence. This could be the subject of further consultation with the Embassy.

Von Dohnanyi reacted somewhat negatively to the proposed shift. He agreed it had advantages from a management perspective but, more importantly, felt it ran counter to Schmidt’s desire to reduce the Radio’s presence in the FRG. The matter would have to be closely examined and his preliminary reaction was not favorable. At Von Dohnanyi’s request, Gronouski agreed to postpone BIB action on the matter until the FRG had had an opportunity to review it.

Comment: As noted above, Von Dohnanyi does not have line responsibility for Radio affairs. End comment.

5. RFE/RL accreditation to Olympic Games: Meyer-Landrut asked about the status of Radio accreditation to the Moscow Games. He noted that this was a matter of public discussion here and suggested that a pooling arrangement between VOA and RFE/RL might be successful in meeting Soviet objections. Gronouski replied that this was one of many ways in which the issue might be handled. It was, in any case, important that the Radios have the right to be present in Moscow. The Olympics were an international, non-political event and RFE/RL as a serious, professional broadcasting organization must be permitted to take part in their coverage. Gronouski noted that Deutsche Welle might also have problems and that a joint position prior to the IOC meeting in Athens might be helpful to both stations. Meyer-Landrut indicated this might be worth pursuing though he made no commitment.

6. Name change: Meyer-Landrut, during an office meeting with Gronouski and again more forcefully at a social occasion, suggested that a change in the name of the Radios might be beneficial. More neutral nomenclature would sit well with Western critics and would also be helpful to the Poles who apparently jammed broadcasts only under Soviet pressure. It might also be useful to non-jamming countries such as Hungary and Romania in dealing with Moscow on this issue. Gronouski responded that some thought had been given to a name change and the matter might well be further explored. We would, [Page 187] however, want some informal indication from the East that a change would produce a favorable reaction.

7. Jamming: In response to a question from Roberts, Meyer-Landrut said he did not anticipate concrete results on jamming to emerge from the CSCE follow-on. It was, however, important to build up pressure from within against Eastern European countries which engaged in jamming. Roberts agreed and suggested the possibility of coordinated action in Belgrade to exert more pressure. Meyer-Landrut was non-commital.

8. Program content: Throughout discussions Gronouski stressed interest in being informed by FRG of any broadcasts of political concern to them. In this connection, Meyer-Landrut observed that the FRG’s own review of RFE/RL’s broadcasts had unearthed nothing objectionable. Gronouski noted that BIB monitors programs and reviews frequent monitoring reports from Embassies in broadcast areas. Tapes of all broadcasts were available and could be reviewed upon request. FRG officials expressed appreciation for offer and for Gronouski’s oft-repeated concern that broadcast content not be problem for FRG.

9. Suggestion of VOA–RFE/RL merger: Ruhfus, in a reference to Schmidt’s sensitivities regarding Radios, offered “personal view” that merger of VOA and RFE/RL could alleviate some of FRG’s concerns. VOA was official US organ and in view of close US–FRG relationship its presence in Germany, along with that of RFE/RL, could be more easily justified vis-a-vis Eastern European critics.

10. On two occasions, FRG officials raised the question of the longwave frequency being handled in one package. Gronouski noted that the longwave frequency fell outside BIB’s responsibilities.

11. This message approved by Chairman Gronouski.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770447–1140. Confidential; Priority; Exdis. Sent for information to Munich and West Berlin.
  2. In telegram 20853 from Bonn, December 16, Stoessel advised Vest that approval for the transmitter modernization would not be given before the end of the Belgrade Conference and even then the full request might not be granted. “The present German analysis,” Stoessel reported, “was that the increased power we were seeking would enable transmissions from Holzkirchen to extend beyond its present target area into Central Asia, where nationality problems are of particular concern to the Soviet Government.” Stoessel advised Vest to stress in his upcoming meeting with West German Foreign Ministry Political Director Klaus Blech “the importance the USG attaches to early and favorable action on our application for upgrading the transmitters at Holzkirchen.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840086–0527, P800023–0911) Vest raised the issue on December 20 with Blech who reported that the Foreign Ministry had recommended approval of the U.S. application. (Telegram 304575 to Bonn, December 22; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840086–0683)